Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-256682-9
Historical Romance, 2018
During the first few chapters of Sophie Barnes’s The Duke of Her Desires, I find myself thinking that I may have to eat all the mean things I’ve said about the author in the past. The heroine Amelia Matthews is shaping up to be believable, realistic heroine with considerable depths, but unfortunately, the author soon remembers that she’s writing for Avon, so poor Amelia turns into an idiot faster than hungry old me can dash to the buffet tables. The synopsis on the back cover makes it seem like the heroine is an idiot, so it turns out that the person who wrote that thing had been warning me all along. Why didn’t I pay attention?
Anyway, Amelia is the sister of a former boxer in Seven Dials who became a duke when there wasn’t anyone else to inherit the title. As she puts it, she’s left an unpleasant past to face an unpleasant future, because she finds it hard to fit in among the folks of Polite Society. While her brother has the title and the friendship of well-connected people to cushion himself, she doesn’t have similar crutches to fall back on. Still, she knows that she wants a family of her own one day – her greatest fear is having to live the rest of her life all alone – and she also doesn’t want to be dependent on her brother, so it makes sense for her to try to fit in and find a nice bloke to marry.
Meanwhile, her brother asks his friend Thomas Heathmore, the Duke of Coventry, to help escort his sister around and maybe introduce her to Thomas’s proper mother for a pointer or two. This is because all the suitable people are conveniently not around to be chaperone, and the only person available can do improper things that can tarnish Amelia’s chances of snagging a future of her own. Thomas agrees, as it’s for four weeks or so, after all. Amelia has always been infatuated with Thomas, but Thomas will soon reciprocate her feelings as he gets to know her better.
Okay, hold that “get to know better” thing. The more accurate phrase to use is “has to rescue her from all kinds of nonsense”, as this is indeed what happens: the author decides to accelerate the heroine’s falling onto the hero’s, er, charm by having Amelia quickly mutate into a dingbat. Yes, our heroine decides that she wants to set up a school in the seedy parts of town. Instead of planning properly or even finding ways to finance her endeavor, she begins running around alone to dark and dangerous parts of town, making business transactions with creepy guys, and then going oops, she’s promised these guys money that she never has in the first place. The last is because she’s desperate to purchase some run down building that she wants to start her school in – makes sense, buy a crappy building at an inflated price when you don’t have the money to renovate that place – and she just wants the guy to say yes to her offer. Yes, Amelia never considers what will happen when the guy demands the rest of the payment.
Fortunately, Thomas is there to come to the rescue, but sadly, there is no rescuing this book from the damage caused by Amelia’s nosedive from a believably lonely and insecure young lady into a braindead baggage from hell that needs constant rescuing. Perhaps I won’t be so annoyed if this book had been terrible from the first page, but I was led to believe by the first few chapters that the author was capable of delivering something more. Oh well, she’s certainly shown me how wrong I was!